Monday, May 13, 2019

Drunk Driving Laws May Get Tough in Texas

drunk driving law

Although laws on drinking and driving are quite strict in Texas, they are not strict enough, reveals the results of a recent poll.

A poll conducted by the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute indicated that 54 percent of citizens want the legal blood alcohol concentration to be reduced from .08 to .05.

Meanwhile, in Texas, 60 percent of respondents want the blood alcohol legal limit to go down from .08 to .05.

Across the states, 46 percent of respondents supported lowering the BAC right down to zero percent. Meanwhile, 48 percent of Texans want the blood alcohol legal limit to be set to zero percent.

According to Dr. Arthur Garson (director of the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute), the results concerning the zero percent legal limit shocked everyone.

The question is: why would citizens want such a strict policy?
During January 2018, Utah became the first state to enforce a legal limit of .05. Although there appears to be plenty of support in Texas for such a strict limit, it remains to be seen if lawmakers will consider a similar move in Texas.

The poll questioned 1,000 people in Texas and 3,000 people in the remaining states.
According to Dr. Garson, the results of the poll accurately reflect the opinions of Texans. He said that the polls have been conducted on a reasonable size and as a consequence, the results of the poll are an accurate portrayal of public opinion in Texas.

Unpredictable Effects of BAC
Lance Arnold, the Police Chief of Weatherford, has extensive experience concerning BAC since he has served as an instructor for Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.

According to him, the reason why people support much lower legal limit is because of the unpredictable effect that alcohol concentrations have on different people.

Lance Arnold said that he conducted hundreds of workshops where police officers were trained for sobriety testing. He added that breath or blood alcohol concentration is a very unreliable measure of impairment. He had personally seen people impaired by a .04 level and those who were not impaired at a .08 level. Blood alcohol concentration is, therefore, an unreliable and poor indicator of alcohol impairment. Since a lot of people are aware of this fact, they want to lower the limit considerably and even set it to zero.

Arnold explained that there’s more to driving while intoxicated than just alcohol concentration. The definition also addresses the question of impairment of physical and mental faculties as a result of alcohol or any other intoxicant.

BAC: An Unreliable Indicator of Impairment
Arnold said that the responsibilities of officers are further complicated by the fact that they must also detect impairment caused by drugs and substances other than alcohol. While it is easy to measure blood and breath alcohol levels with the help of standard devices like breathalyzers, officers must use their judgment and training to catch drivers who are intoxicated by substances other than alcohol. Police officers should use validated and standardized field sobriety tests to detect impairment.

By setting a lower legal limit for blood alcohol concentration, it may be possible to keep a larger percentage of drunk people from driving.

The fact is that alcohol has a variable effect on different people. Some people have a high tolerance for alcohol while others become easily inebriated with relatively lower amounts.

As a result, if you have had alcohol and feel even the slightest effect of alcohol, then you should play it safe and call a ride hailing service or request a sober person to drive you home. Ride hailing services are now economical and easily available at almost all locations.

Jamie Gutierrez (executive director of the NGO Mothers Against Drunk Driving) said that his organization wants to conduct more research before deciding to favor or oppose the change to .05.

Lower BAC = Lower Deaths
According to the results of research, lowering the blood alcohol legal limit can reduce alcohol-related accidents. J. Fell and M. Scherer conducted a meta-analysis, which was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. According to the results of meta - analysis on several international studies, when the BAC was lowered from .1 to .08, there was a 5% reduction in alcohol-related non-fatal accidents and a 9.2% reduction in fatal alcohol-related accidents. There was a further 11.1% reduction in alcohol-related fatal accidents when the BAC was reduced to .05 or less. The authors further stated that if the .05 legal limit is enforced across all states, then 1,1790 lives would be saved annually.

When four sisters were killed in a head-on drunk-driving collision in 1998, Brock parents successfully lobbied for changes and lowered the BAC from .1 to .08. Ricky Carter, the man who pleaded guilty to the incident, had a blood alcohol level of .16. The British Medical Association and the American Medical Association support reducing the BAC to .05.

A reduction of the legal alcohol limit may be required since bars and other establishments which serve alcohol are often unable to monitor excessive alcohol consumption. For instance, a typical pub may serve alcohol to 150 people and may have just two bartenders and 6 waitresses to keep a watch on alcohol consumption. The staff at the establishment may have no idea about the number of people that may have exceeded the .08 BAC limit.

Is the .05 BAC Really Austere?
Although there are concerns that alcohol concentration limits will become very stringent in Texas with a .05 BAC limit, there are arguments that such a limit is not excessively austere.

For instance, Fell mentioned in the summary of the meta-analysis that you cannot reach a .05 BAC level even if you drink two glasses of wine at a time. For a 170-pound male, at least four drinks are required to push the BAC beyond .05 on an empty stomach. On the other hand, for a 137-pound female, at least three drinks are required to exceed .05 BAC on an empty stomach. 

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